11 March 2017

I haz dun patternz

Yo yo yo. So if you follow me on the old Instagram you're may have already seen this, but if not you may fancy taking a peek at this month's Simply Crochet magazine!

I had the honour to take part in the 'hook to hook' challenge in this months magazine (Issue 55 - out now). In the hook to hook challenge two designers have to make different designs using the same single ball of yarn.

The yarn we had to use was some lovely variegated Rialto Luxury Sock yarn by Debbie Bliss. I made this scarf which uses quadruple treble stitches and ends up giving an effect that is a little like solomon's knot stitch - just more solid.

I was up against some awesome socks by Hannah Cross. The hook to hook challenge also has an Instagram voting competition where the yarn can be won, and Hannah's design got the public vote - which I can totally understand, who doesn't love a good sock pattern.

This was my first proper pattern design for a magazine in a while, and I loved making it (even with the nightmare of our flat flooding and it getting soaked in rainwater while it was drying out after the blocking process). I figured I'd show you loyal blog followers a little something extra, so here is the very very first test swatch I made when trying to work out and tweak this design before trying it with the Debbie Bliss yarn.

But wait.....there's more! Not only did I get to have my hook to hook scarf pattern published, I've also got another pattern in this months Simply Crochet as well!!!

I've been trying to invest my time more seriously into pattern writing and this was one of the first ideas that I came up with. I've got a bit of a thing for trying to work out how to create shapes, and with this one I wanted to make a rounded triangle that also had a negative space triangle inside it. It's a super simple pattern and uses hardly any yarn at all, so a nice quick make! Oh yeah, and here's the original colour-way that I did it in - just in case you fancy seeing an alternative (modelled by the lovely wife in her tiger jumper).

Keep your eyes peeled for plenty more patterns from me this year, I've got plenty more ideas that I'm working on!

Also this month, I've been featured in a small article in Let's Get Crafting. It's all about weird crochet so of course I fit right in! It's in Issue 89 which is also out now!

So yeah, get yourself down to a newsagents and check it out! That's all for now - peace out!

27 February 2017

Yarn travels – unravel 2017.

Hey hey hey, well seeing as we’re well into 2017 already I should probably actually do a blog post. On Saturday 18th February we hopped in the car, and trundled down the motorway all the way to Farnham for Unravel 2017

Although it’s been going on for years this is the first time I’ve been to Unravel. Last year I saw loads of stuff about it on social media and that there was lots of people I would have loved to have met there, so this year I didn’t want to miss out.

If you’ve not been before, Unravel is definitely catering to the higher end of the yarn market (in that it’s lots of real wool/independent producers and companies). Being set in the Farnham Maltings building which is a creative arts centre, the layout of the event is somewhat of a labyrinth. There is one main grand hall but then there are lots of smaller rooms dotted around, which has its positives and negatives. Having different rooms meant that there was plenty of stalls and very defined areas, but also because of how busy it was, it was quite hard to get from one room to another and it could have been easy to miss something….that said, I noticed that it had quietened down significantly by about 3pm, so if you can’t stand crowds its always worth going to these things later in the day.

John Arbon Textiles
The amount of yarn available was a little overwhelming. Whenever I go to yarn fairs/festivals I always make a point of going around everything once to check it all out, and then go around again and start making purchases – with unravel I felt like I needed to go round all the stalls at least twice before buying anything to really decide what I wanted. 

One stallholder that I was itching to see in particular was Rachel Atkinson and her ‘Daughter of a Shepherd’ brand. I’ve read a lot about Rachel’s yarn, and she’s done so much to raise awareness of the plight of British wool farmers. She also wrote a really nice piece on her blog a few years back about my artwork so I really wanted to put a face to the name. I’m kinda crap at introducing myself and can be a bit anxious about approaching people, but Rachel gave me a knowing nod straight away and we had a really nice chat.

Daughter of a Shepherd
Needless to say I also bought some of her yarn, I’m going to have to do something special with it and I can wait to get hooking with it.

Daughter of a Shepherd
I met a load of other awesome people at the event too (although I didn’t have the nerve to ask for photo’s with them or anything). The legend that is Jane Crowfoot was there on her Janie Crow stand, and after passing a few times I plucked up the courage to go talk to her….and man, was she lovely. After an awkward introduction on my part (asking ‘you know who I am right?’ maybe isn’t the best start), we had a great chat about her designs and the industry, and she was really encouraging when I told her about some of my designs and aspirations. I also met fellow bearded stitcher Nathan (otherwise know as Sockmatician). I’d recently come across this guy on Instagram, and our beards and love of bright colours naturally drew us into talking to each other.

As well as all the yarn to buy and people to see, there was also plenty of textile art on display. There was some really interesting work by Woking College in some of the hallways.

Textile Art by Gemma Jones from Woking College
There was also the knitted Aviary in the entrance. The birds were donated by knitters and crocheters and then were being auctioned off afterwards for charity.

But I think if I had to choose my favourite pieces it would be a split between the knitted moths by max’s world….

….and the crochet art of Kate Jenkins, which is frankly mind-blowing!!!

So yeah, overall it’s an awesome yarn festival, I'd definitely go again…..but be prepared, your wallet will feel it. I ended up spending way more than I intended to, but there was just so much quality yarn I couldn’t help myself. Obligatory haul picture below.

That's all for now, more stuff coming reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalll soon. Peace out x

15 December 2016

Free Pattern – The ‘Humankind’ Scarf.

Well hello there. As usual I’ve been a bit quiet of late (although no change there really, I go into hibernation mode at this time of year!). I have been busy though and thought it was about time I gave something back to all you lovely followers. That’s right; time for another free pattern!
If you want to get straight to it then feel free to ignore my ramblings and scroll down, but I wanted to let you know a little bit about how and why I wrote this pattern.

Humanity [hyoo-man-i-tee or, often, yoo-]
Noun, plural humanities.
1. all human beings collectively; the human race; humankind.
2. the quality or condition of being human; human nature.
3. the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence.

Over the last few months I’ve been trying to build up a bit of a stash of pattern designs, much of it is still in the swatch/sketchbook stage, but I’ve got a few things in the pipeline already so keep your eye out for them next year.

Benevolence [buh-nev-uh-luh ns]
1. desire to do good to others; goodwill; charitableness:
2. an act of kindness; a charitable gift.

The brilliant DMC have been gracious enough to supply me with some of their yarns to work with for my designs. I’m very thankful to have a company of such standing supporting me over the past year and having faith in my abilities. 
Out of the blue they sent me some of their ‘Wooly 5’ brand of merino yarn to have a play with, so I figured that rather than just swatching and experimenting with it I’d try and come up with a finished pattern for you all.

Compassion [kuh m-pash-uh n]
A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

I’ve had a little bit of a dabble with pattern writing before but I’m still pretty new to the world of designing. I’ve been trying to approach my designs by thinking of a shape or idea and then working out if it’s possible, rather than choosing a stitch and then trying to work out a way to use it. I’m hoping that this will help make my designs a bit more unique.

Empathy [em-puh-thee]
The psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

I started this design with the idea of those ‘paper doll/people holding hands chain’ things you used to make with scissors and folded paper when you were a kid. Initially I just did a rough sketch of how I imagined the stitches could work, and then it was just a bit of trial and error as it is quite a tricky pattern.
It’s also a project that definitely NEEDS BLOCKING!!! Dun dun duuuuh!!! I hardly ever actually block stuff, but due to the nature of these stitches it’ll kind of curl in on itself and won’t look as good if you don’t block it. Also, because it’s got a lot of open space, I made it so the scarf is super long and can be wrapped around multiple times. I do like my scarfs long and I think it helps show off the colours, but you can always make it shorter if you want.

Altruism [al-troo-iz-uh m]
The principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism )

And before we get started, what are these words all about? Well they’re the words and sentiments that I want this pattern to represent. I tried writing out my thinking/theory behind it, but every time it just turned into a political rant or sounded horribly specious or superficial. So I figured I’d just slip in words and definitions that were the crux of some sort of point I was trying to get at (although I’m quite aware this probably now just makes me look super pretentious). Basically all I want is for this scarf to act as inspiration to consider and help others wherever we can…..failing that it’s just a pretty scarf, but hey I can dream! Hope you enjoy it

P.s. All definitions were taken from dictionary.com, who incidentally have decided that the word of the year for 2016 is xenophobia – which probably makes more of a point in itself than my ramblings do! Anyway, here we go!

Free ‘Humankind’ Scarf Pattern

Ch = Chain
Ch-sp = Chain space
Ss = Slip stitch
Dc = Double crochet (for US Terms replace with Sc)
Dtr = Double treble (for US Terms replace with Trtr)
Yoh = Yarn over hook

Special Stitches

Dtr = yoh twice, insert hook into st, pull up a loop, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through 2 loops yoh, draw though remaining 2 loops

= yoh twice, insert hook into st, pull up a loop, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh twice, insert hook into same st, pull up a loop, yoh draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through 2 loops, yoh, draw through remaining 3 loops.

You will need: 
a 5mm hook
DMC woolly 5 (100% merino wool, 50g/80m), one ball of each of the following colours:
Yarn A – Burgundy (col. 155)
Yarn B – Peach (col. 10)
Yarn C – Mustard (col. 95)
Yarn D – Yellow (col. 82)
Yarn E – Green (col. 89)


Using Yarn A, Ch31, starting in 2nd ch from hook,

Row 1: Dc in each st across, turn – 30sts

Row 2: ch1 (does not count as stitch), dc in nxt 2 sts, *ch7, sk 5sts, dc in nxt 2 sts* repeat 4 times, turn.

Row 3: (Do not ch1) dc, ch6, *dc in next st, ch1, [3dc, ch2, 3dc] over 7ch, ch1, dc in next st* rep 4 times, ch 3, dtr in nxt st. turn.

Row 4: Ch4 (counts as dtr), dtr in top of ch3 from previous row, ch2, 2dtr-cluster in 2ch-sp, *ch 6, 2dtr-cluster in nxt 2ch-sp* repeat 3 times, 2ch, dtr in 4th ch of ch6 of previous row, dtr in 3rd ch of ch6 of previous row, turn

Row 5: (Do not ch1) dc, ch6, dc in nxt st, 2dc in 2ch-sp, [ss in nxt st, ch5, turn, dc in second ch from hook and nxt 3ch, ch4, ss into first dc made in this bracket, ch3, turn, ss in same st as last ss, 4dc in 4ch-sp, ss in same st as starting ss], *6dc in 6ch-sp, [ss in nxt st, ch5, turn, dc in second ch from hook and nxt 3ch, ch4, turn, ss into first dc made in this bracket, ch3, turn, 4dc in 4ch-sp, ss in same st as start]* repeat 3 times, 2dc in 2ch-sp, dc in nxt st, ch3, dtr in nxt st, turn.

(if you find Row 5 a little tricky, see below for a step by step picture guide on how to complete the section in the square brackets)

Row 6: Ch1 (does not count as stitch), dc in first st, dc in top of ch3, ch2, ss in nxt 3ch-sp, *ch6, ss in nxt 3ch-sp* repeat 3 times, ch2, dc in 4th ch of ch6 of previous row, dc in 3rd ch of 6ch of previous row, turn.

Row 7: Ch1 (does not count as stitch), dc in nxt 2 sts, 2dc in 2ch-sp, dc in same place as ss from previous row, *6dc in 6ch-sp, dc in same place as ss from previous row* rep 3 times, 2dc in 2ch-sp, dc in nxt 2 sts.

On the last st of row 7, change to next yarn colour and repeat rows 1-7 in the following colour order: A,B,C,D,E,A,B,C,D,E,A,B,C,D,E,A,B,C,D,E.

To finish, block and weave in all ends.

How to do the part in between the square brackets in row 5
And there you go, all done. If anyone finds any terrible errors let me know, but it should be fine. It is a little tricky but good luck with it. 

Enjoy! That's it from me for 2016, lets hope next year is a bit better. Until then, peace out y'all x

[The Legal Bit -  I am happy for you to print this pattern for yourself, and I do not mind if you want to use it at crochet classes or groups. I retain copyright. I only ask that you do not sell works made from this pattern, and do not publish or replicate on any other websites or publications without prior permission - linking to the pattern/my blog is fine. Basically, I don't copy, neither should you!]

06 October 2016

a little bit of culture

Well hello there! About time for an update innit. So I've been doing various things over the last two months, including some new crochet designs which hopefully I'll be able to share with you soon. But for now I thought I would show you some of the cultural outings I've had.

So lets start off with a bit of good old art. In September me and the wife went to London for the weekend. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of the place, too many people for me, and everything's all rush rush rush. Add to that I had to postpone our trip by a day due to a horrendous sickness bug. So, still slightly ill, I managed to drag myself there, and one of the biggest reason I wanted to go was to catch this very special exhibition.

The Blain Southern Gallery, just off Regent Street, was hosting a solo exhibition by Abdoulaye Konaté, a Malian textile artist. You can read more about his work and the exhibition here on the gallery's website (there's also a really good video there which I suggest you watch, it was seeing the video that made me want to go see it).

His work is largely comprised of woven and dyed cloths sewn together to form quite abstract pieces, which was what this exhibition consisted of, but he also does other work with strong political and social messages.

Both the lovely wife and I really enjoyed the exhibition. The vibrancy and detail of the work was really impressive, and even though you may look at something like this as being quite abstract, it really drew you in and led to us spending a long time looking at each piece.

We did go to a few other things whilst in the big city, including an exhibition called 'Making & Unmaking' at Camden Arts Centre that was curated by Nigerian born fashion designer Duro Olowu. The exhibition was a very varied mix of different types of artwork, but there was a lot of textile and weaving work so it was very pleasing to me. We also went to the Björk digital exhibition at Somerset House, which was - AMAZING!!! It showcased a selection of video's for her new album, but 5 out of 6 of them were shown on virtual reality headsets. You went into a dark room, put on the headsets, headphones, and sat on a swivel chair. Many of the video's were also shot on a 360 degree camera, so as you can imagine, it was pretty crazy. Unfortunately photography wasn't allowed at either of these events, so you'll just have to take my word for it that they were awesome.

But, whilst at Somerset house, we also managed to catch the London design biennale.

37 countries came together submitting work on the theme of utopia. We went with very few preconceptions of what to expect, and really there was something for everyone.

Many of the pieces were interactive, including this big tube of string which you had to walk through to get to the next part of the exhibition.

These are just a few of my favourite works, but there was so much to see. What I found really interesting was how different countries took different views of the subject of utopia. Not naming names (as to not alienate any readers nationalities), some nations work had very much a 'we could aspire to utopia, it could be our future', while others seemed to have an attitude of 'we know what's best, we'll tell you what utopia is!'......one in particular seemed very politically angry at misconceptions cast upon their country, whilst another seemed regressive and harking back to a so-called 'golden age'......oooooh controversial!

Ok, what about more recently? Well last weekend I drove over to the outskirts of Bristol to catch an event I've been intrigued about for some time.

It was world textile day west. The world textile events go on throughout the year in various locations, so check their website for an event near you. I wasn't 100% on what to expect, it's rather a niche subject, but one that's right up my street. We got there just in time to catch the first talk that was going on.

Diane Gaffney of textile traders gave an hour long talk on Batik fabrics that play an intrinsic role throughout Indonesian life. She gave a wonderful insight into quite how important the messages that the fabric conveys. The talk was titled 'A Matter of Life and Death', and Diane guided us through the fabrics that are given from as early as the pregnancy, all the way through to those that are used in funerals.

Once the talk was over, there was shopping to be done, yayyyyy! Now I don't really need any more fabric, but there was so much that I just couldn't help myself. But even whist trying to keep the purse strings tight, there was still plenty to see.

There were some textiles on display among the stalls, including many amazing South American weavings courtesy of one of my favourite stalls at the event, tukuru textiles.

There were so many beautiful fabrics and objects, and many of the ones of sale (on many of the stalls) had a fairly hefty price tag - but the event does say it is about being fair trade and the workmanship is exquisite....so I guess you pay for quality and rarity, but if I had the money, I would have totally bought this!

These carved gourds, that were carved with an ordinary nail and coloured with ash, were absolutely exquisite. The larger ones demanded a pretty penny (and rightly so), but I managed to get myself a small one for a fair price.

We then caught another two short talks, one on fabric in South China, and the other on symbolism in Ghanaian printed fabric by Magie Relph of African fabric (who I've met before at the knitting and stitching shows)- both of the talks were excellent. So here's my very restrained haul from the day, including Magie and her husband Bob's book.

So yeah, that's what I've been up to....both outings ended up with hot dogs too, one was a currywurst and the other was a chilli dog.....in case you're interested.

Hope you enjoyed these cultural capers, peace out or now x

30 August 2016

Shambala Festival 2016

Well, that weekend flew by, but now that I'm back, rested, washed and finally sober, I guess you'll want to know all about Shambala festival 2016.
This years Shambala was particularly excellent, we saw some amazing bands/shows and took part in some brilliant workshops...but I'll come back to that, we all know that what you really want to see is the costumes!
So this year I was tasked with making not one but two costumes, one for me and one for my best mate. The theme for this year was 'myths and monsters' so I kinda went along the lines of making up my own monsters.
Both of the masks were made out of crochet (that was the easy part). I then backed it onto a wire and papier-mache frame, which had buckles and cords to attach it to our heads.
The black of the mouths was made with a sheer black fabric so we could still see through it, and it was attached with elastic so we could pull it down and still drink (very important).
With both of the masks I used acrylic yarn, mostly from my odds and ends hamper, but stuck a bit of neon yellow, pink and green in there so it was really bright.
I made some paper templates before doing the crochet just so I had a rough idea where the mouths would need to be and get an idea of composition, but overall it mostly a lot of freestyling.
One of my favourite things about wearing crochet costumes is when people recognise it for what it is. There were a few people that asked if it was knitting/crochet, and they seemed a lot more perplexed when this was confirmed (maybe due to it being a mask rather than a garment, it almost seemed that they couldn't believe it was handmade).
Now: reader beware, here comes the 'I want to explain my influences but it may make me sound like a certain type of stereotypical pretentious middle-class white guy' bit. A couple of people commented that the masks and costumes kinda gave off African (or possibly Aztec/Mayan) vibes - this didn't surprise me as there were a lot of influences relating to that in my creation process. 
Whilst making the masks I'd been reading a lot of Nigerian literature, one example being one of my favourite authors named Amos Tutuola. It is also from his most famous book 'The Palm-Wine Drinkard' that I took the quotes that are on the coconut shell necklaces - and yes I broke, sanded and painted the shells myself. The visualisation of folk-tales and animist subjects that run through his books was a big influence on my imagination for these costumes.
But I'd also been reading other books on subjects like Peruvian shamanism and African textiles, so it was really clear to me where my influences lay. It can be a fine line between being influenced by other cultures and misappropriation, but I'd like to think that I'm clear enough on my influences and that my own creativity also comes through......I did warn you that it might get a bit pretentious.
Anyway, as you might have guessed quite a lot of work went into both costumes. As well as all the crochet I threaded every necklace myself, tore up the fabric strips and me and my mate did the tie dye together too (although it ended up coming out a bit fainter than planned).
Unfortunately on the Saturday (which is traditionally fancy dress/costume day) we had torrential downpours, with a thunder and lightening storm which seemed to circle the site for hours). Because of this we weren't able to wear the costumes all day but got dressed up as soon as it stopped raining.
But even with the rain it was still a hell of a lot of fun. As you can see in the photo above plenty of people still powered through and made the effort with their costumes despite the British weather.
So those were this years costumes, who knows what I'll do with them now, maybe I'll put them in some sort of box frame. Well now that the costumes have been dealt with, those of you who follow my yearly festival shenanigans will know there's more crochet to come....
....Every year I make a gift to give out to a random person, just to be nice. This year was no exception.
To start with I made this bracelet using crochet tapestry and hand-sewn beading. But seeing as I made two costumes, I figured I should make two gifts.
So I also made this necklace. Both were given out to people selected completely at random. It's a great feeling to give something with no reasoning or ultimatum, people are generally confused and then shocked when they realise what is happening. But wait there's more, last year I also made a gift for a child, as Shambala is a very family friendly festival.
So I also made this cute little beetle/bug and gave it to a toddler that was with it's parents by the main stage. I also made this little purple scarab beetle for no particular purpose so gave it to some guy that was whittling a spoon in the woods...as you do.
So there we go, that's all of my creations from the festival. So now I'm gonna show you some other cool creative stuff I found around the festival.
How's about a Yarn-bombed Ice Cream van?!! An ice cream van selling knitted finger puppets no less!!!
It was all by a company called Little Fingy. So the van got our attention, the finger puppets drew us in, and inside we discovered this guy selling the puppets!
That's some proper crochet granny square lovin right there! I couldn't help myself and bought a little mouse puppet for the lovely wife. There was plenty of cool non-crochet stuff though, and most of it could be found in the enchanted woods.
We both particularly liked these hanging mirrored LED cubes. When you looked into the side of them you got an infinite reflection type thing going on.
They also appeared to change colour in relation to the sounds around it....although we did struggle to figure out whether this was happening or if we were just too drunk.
As well as the cubes there was also this awesome video piece that again used mirrors. You put your hand in a hole and it created a kaleidoscopic feedback effect.
And finally, there were these hanging fibre-optic LED's suspended from and wrapped around the trees. 
Not only did it look cool but people were really enjoying wrapping themselves up in lights that hung down to the ground.
So yeah, that was a very visual account of this years Shambala. What things did I enjoy most I hear you ask? Well....
Workshop highlights: Shaman Drumming, Afon Systema Maracatu Drumming, Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi.
Music Highlights: Nightmares on Wax, Dele Sosimi, The Comet Is Coming (these guys were absolutely amazing).
Food Highlights: Surprisingly for me, everything was awesome (I say surprising cos it was all meat-free this year and I'm a total carnivore), in particular the Dosa Deli Indian Savoury Crispy Pancakes and the Pho Sho Vietnamese-style baguettes were out of this world.

So that's it for this year, unfortunately I don't know what I'll do next year, as my best buddy Broughton is entering the adult world of parenthood so won't be able to come with me next year. In some ways it's the end of a very drunken era. But I love Shambala so much, I don't think it'll be my last time in Utopia.
Hope you all enjoyed the madness and the massive blog post. Until next time - peace out x